Brace yourself darlings, because I am about to say something borderline heretical. I hate Paris; no, really. Utterly despise the place; overpriced, overcrowded, terrible public transport system. Granted, it has a certain unattainable beauty, all Rococo architecture and charming street cafes, but it’s too polished, too snooty, to be at all enjoyable. As for London, well I love the place, but it’s a nightmare for tourists. Instead it is Amsterdam, with its terraced houses and picturesque canals, which is Europe’s true capital of cool.
On a fashion front, Amsterdammers are some of the best dressed in Europe. They are almost universally stylish: think Scando-chic, yet a little more edgy, and with every outfit perfectly accessorised with a vintage Dutch bicycle. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a sharply suited gent cycling to work on a vintage bike, but believe me, it’s hot.
Shopping in Amsterdam is a dream. The city is small and easy to negotiate, so you won’t experience anything of the Oxford/Bond Street hysteria one does in London. Independent boutiques are Amsterdam’s speciality. Head to the ‘Nine Streets’ area or De Pijp for the cream of the crop, and when passing through Dam Square, be sure to check out The Russian Doll Shop, where intricately-painted treasures fill its shoe-box dimensions. For those with tendencies towards haute-couture, Bulgari, Hermes and Valentino on PC Hooftstraat, are sure to empty your bank accounts nicely.
Museums and art galleries are in no short supply either. While the traditional favourites like the Rijksmuseum might seem unappealing to young travellers, unwilling to spend their time staring at Old Masters, the newly renovated Stedelijk Museum showcases the best in modern art, and the light and airy Van Gough Museum is worth visiting too.
After a long day of cultural exploration, one’s bound to work up quite the appetite. With the Dutch hardly famous for their culinary prowess, it’s surprising to hear that Amsterdam’s dining scene is thriving. Though you’ll be hard-pressed to find much by the way of tasty, healthy food if you stick to traditional Dutch cuisine (Gouda, chips and mayo), the city is a melting pot for world foods, and you can find something for every taste and every budget. Situated slightly out of town, in a wonderfully re-furbished old greenhouse, De Kas provides the best in fine dining. Yet in Amsterdam you don’t have to spend a fortune for a great meal; Villa Zeezicht, on Torensteeg, serves possibly the best penne all’arrabbiata I have ever tasted, and with plenty of outdoor seating overlooking the canals, it’s unbeatable on a warm summer’s evening. If it’s a liquid lunch you’re after, the many lazy cafes in the Vondelpark provide the perfect for spot for a cold beer or strong coffee.
Of course, no trip to Amsterdam would be complete without at least one late night or two. Shamelessly touristy, but none the less unbelievably atmospheric, there is nothing wrong with starting the evening with a pint of Amstel in Leidseplein. Later head to one of my favourite haunts in the world, Cafe Alto, a small smoky jazz joint, where the wine tastes like vinegar but the saxophone sounds like honey. Spread across three floors, Café Lux is great for cocktails and craft beers, but be warned, this place is notoriously cool; only go if you’re willing to fend of competition from Amsterdam’s young, bright and beautiful. A drink or so here, and you’re sure to fall, utterly, completely in love with the city.
By Caitie Bugler